EXCLUSIVE: David Koechner, one of the stars of Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues, which opens today, is returning to his sketch comedy roots as the star, creator and executive producer of a one-hour variety sketch show that has received a pilot order at NBC. Koechner, of course, started off on the biggest sketch/variety franchise on television, NBC’s Saturday Night Live, and also recurred on the network’s long-running comedy series The Office. Koechner will executive produce the pilot with Lou Wallach and Brillstein Entertainment Partners’ Alex Murray and Tim Sarkes. Universal TV’s Alternative Studio, where Wallach is under an overall deal, is producing. Under his pact, former Comedy Central executive-turned-producer Wallach had been looking to develop a sketch comedy. He reached out to Koechner, with whom he worked on the actor’s Web series Full On Koechner. Koechner had an idea for such a show, which the two pitched to NBC, landing a pilot order. “I am thrilled to be working with NBC to develop a dynamic hour of variety entertainment,” said Koechner. “I got my start working for NBC on Saturday Night Live, followed by a stint on The Office, and I’m happy to be back. As a husband and father of five, my vision is for us to create a show that engages everyone. I want it to make a mom, dad and grandmother laugh, while the 13- to 19-year-old stands behind the couch peeking over his iPhone, equally amused by the content.”
This is the second high-profile pilot for a sketch/variety show ordered by NBC in the past month, joining another project headlined by an SNL alumna, Maya Rudolph. NBC has been actively exploring alternative comedy as this is where the network’s strength has been recently, with SNL and Hollywood Game Night ranking as NBC’s top two comedy programs in the 18-49 demo. Given how well NBC did with another variety-type program, the live staging of The Sound Of Music, on Thursday, it is not inconceivable for the network to try sketch/variety shows on the night where its traditional comedies have struggled.
NBC has been looking to keep Koechner on the network beyond The Office and signed the actor in a talent deal a couple of years ago. Earlier this year, Koechner toplined a comedy pilot, Whitey, for A+E Networks, which did not go to series. The alumnus of Chicago’s Second City Theater is currently promoting the Anchorman sequel after also starring in the first movie alongside his former SNL cohort and frequent collaborator Will Ferrell. Koechner, repped by CAA, BEP and attorney Adam Kaller, next will kick off a 10-city stand-up tour in January and co-stars in the upcoming indie Cheap Thrills.